Before I took on my current persona as either a “Putin Stooge,” a “shill for the Fed,” or a naïve apologist for neoliberalism, I used to be a chemist specializing in process efficiency and root cause analysis.
While I learned many things during those twenty-plus years, the most startling conclusion I came to was that laziness has a real place in process improvement.
If you really want some industrial or bureaucratic process streamlined, give that job to the guy who most hates having his time wasted. He will invariably find a way to make that ‘work’ into something he only has to do sparingly.
It led to one of my first rules of organization, if you want something done right give it to the “lazy” guy.
That “lazy” guy isn’t really lazy.
What he is is unmotivated because all he sees is waste and waste offends his narcissism. Nothing is worse than wasting his time doing unnecessary tasks. So, give him some tedious thing to improve and he will find not only the fastest way to do it, but also very likely the best way because while he doesn’t want his time wasted, he also doesn’t want to be yelled at by someone he sees as inferior.
Only then will you get an honest day of work out of someone like him.
It’s not like I wouldn’t know this from personal experience or anything.
When I was a chemist, I was obsessed with doing everything I could to optimize internal processes, be it shaving a few seconds here or there off a temperature program to analyze heavy metals by atomic spectroscopy or optimizing the deposition rate of a plating bath.
For me, the goal was always the same, work hard now to generate free time later to devote myself to something more valuable.
I benefited from having a less stressful work environment, the company benefits from lower COGS and the goodwill you generate leaves you far less vulnerable to middle-management scrutiny.
It was this ‘laziness’ that afforded me hundreds of hours over the years to pursue my hobbies while at work. Those were, in short, board gaming, monetary theory and politics.
One could say y’all are now the ‘beneficiaries’ of all that ‘laziness.’ (sic)
While podcasts are all the rage now, and with good reason, during my last ‘corporate’ job (which is really stretching that definition) I consumed every internet radio show I could on gold, the 2008 financial crisis, and the Buffalo Sabres.
But simultaneously I also produced reams of data in service of putting strict process controls on a novel nickel-boron coating whose lack of such had the company hemorrhaging capital.
Respect the Order
What you learn in all of this is that “order of operations” matters.
Coders understand this explicitly. So do engineers. It’s especially true in chemistry, where for one reaction to take place another reaction has to happen before it. Do it in the wrong order and you get a mess at best, or blow up the building or poison yourself at worst.
Switching metaphors, in your typical “euro-style” board game, the order in which you take the actions necessary to fulfill your strategy matters greatly. In these games, where luck is minimized or removed completely, players fight for access to a limited number of places to ‘do a thing,’ be it play a card, place a worker, build a city or whatever.
The goal is to collect more of what you need to win while subtly denying your opponent what he needs.
Sometimes you have to make a sub-optimal move for yourself in order to block someone else getting to that thing that would benefit them more. It’s incredibly passive-aggressive, but it’s also instructive, because it is so unabashedly human.
Math has it’s order of operations as well, PEMDAS for short — Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division, Addition/Subtraction. We’ve all seen the quizzes on social media testing our knowledge of this.
It is this attention to the order of operations that is important in trying to make sense of what’s going on in the world today.
One of my most common complaints with my ‘libertarian brethren’ is that they are always jumping to ‘end-game’ while not thinking through the moves that get us there.
In monetary theory we can do the math and realize the system is doomed. By taking that variable and adding it into the political mix we can solve the geopolitical equation and then make grand pronouncements about the where everything winds up.
While this is an important first step in waking people up, it’s also absolutely why, as a political force, ‘libertarians’ are spent. Ron Paul broke through into the popular zeitgeist in 2008 and 2012 with “End the Fed” and his critiques of foreign policy.
The problem was, however, the movement never grew up. It never engaged with the world that was versus still selling the world we’ll never get.
And rightly, people wandered away looking for those with real answers to today’s problems.
I’ve been there and made many a decision based on the equation I solved only to be frustrated like many others by the future not working out like the model I’d constructed.
The typical cope then is to scream, “Corruption!” and bitch about them rigging the gold price or trashing Bitcoin or whatever. And don’t get me wrong, I’m with y’all on that. They are rigging the markets, intervening at every turn, if not turning them into completely fake markets.
But that should have been expected. Because in the proper ‘order of operations’ those with power and money will always react to defend themselves against the growing realization that they are fucking us over.
Remember, they’re trying to ‘win’ this game as well.
And so, if they can get to that richer spot on the board before you do, they will. Don’t bitch about the game board being tilted against you, accept that it is part of that mini-game and widen your perspective on the larger game afoot.
And that’s the real problem. We have too many ‘lazy’ analysts who got red-pilled, saw the game for what it was and stopped at “anger” rather than doing the hard work of reaching ‘acceptance.’
This is where we are today and why, for many, the world is so hard to make sense of.
The Larger Bowl
When you realize that everyone’s incentives map to their own particular definitions of winning that’s when real headway can be made in understanding.
Because here’s the thing. Our insights into the world aren’t novel or unique. In fact, more often than not they are just our finally understanding the reality that’s always been in front of us. We’re latecomers to a geopolitical party that’s been going on for decades.
I know I feel like that on more days than I care to admit.
They’ve finally told us what their end game looks like. It speaks to a confidence of their making that real. If we ignore the order of operations of how we get to our preferred outcome — a decentralized world with private property and sound money that should maximize human dignity — the irony is we’ll have a lower probability of it occurring on any time line that matters to us or even our children.
This is why I’m willing to see The Fed and the NY Boys as our temporary allies in that fight for human dignity. They have their definitions of winning the game they’re playing and should act accordingly.
So, while we should all long for the day that these assholes are dead and buried by the natural forces of decentralization and entropy, there are a thousand interstitial steps that have to happen first.
And it won’t matter if bitcoin eventually wins if the world goes through a sixty year Dark Age in the meantime. That’s not leadership, that’s cowardice.
So, yes. Davos has their definitions of winning. The Russians have theirs. China theirs.
And we need to have ours.
It is this curious admixture of incentives, this coincidence of wants, that is the interesting part. It’s where the game actually lives. And while we don’t have a crystal ball as to how well everyone in the game will respond to these pressures and counter-pressures, with an accurate map of their incentives we can, at least make some observations.
The problem for many is they checked out long before they’d even identified the players at the table, so the game seems incomprehensible and the players wiser and more powerful than they actually are.
That’s why I think this year is going to be one of the most interesting to analyze in real time and why we all have to up our game.
Laziness only gets you so far, it may get you to the root cause of the situation, but that’s when the real work begins.
Reprinted with permission from Gold Goats ‘n Guns.